Dec 042016

The holidays are rapidly approaching (yikes), and, if you’re like most of us, you may be struggling with gift ideas for those on your list.  We’re here to help.

We’ve put together a list of some of favorite products and services for Travelers, Photographers, Scuba Divers and Bonaire Lovers.


For Travelers & Global Nomads

Swatch Watches– I rarely travel without a Swatch watch.  The affordable price point means that you don’t have to fret about loss or theft.  And the fact that all Swatch watches are waterproof makes them indispensable for ocean lovers. Another plus, many larger airports have a Swatch store, and Swatch offers free battery changes for the life of your watch.  This white one is my new fave.

Amazon Kindle Voyage – This is the new device in my arsenal, and I’m in love.  Where do I begin?  The battery life is incredible.  It lasts for weeks.  The screen is easy to read, easy on the eyes and user-friendly.  And who doesn’t want access to new books at their fingertip?

Elta MD UV Clear Sunscreen, SPF 46 – Whether you are trekking in the Himalayas, Skiing in Taos or sailing the South Pacific, sunscreen is critically important.  I go through bottles of this product.  It has a high level of protection, yet it feels light and will never cause breakouts.

Dakine Split Roller Duffle Bag – My Dakine bag has not had an easy life.  It’s been thrown onto luggage belts in Fiji, rolled through rocks and dirt in the Serengeti and hauled in and out of multiple boats in The Maldives.  Yet it has held up like the workhorse it is.  And type-A neat freaks those who like multiple organizational options will love its many sections and pockets.

Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarers – These classic shades are now made in a cool folding design that fits easily into your pocket or travel bag.


For Photographers

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 – This is hands-down the most critical element of my photography arsenal.

Gitzo 3532LS Tripod – This sturdy carbon-fiber tripod is also flexible and adaptable.  We love it for outdoor and wildlife photography.

Think Tank Perception Pro Camera Backpack – This backpack went with me to Tanzania, and it was perfect for my safari needs.  Inside it I hauled one SLR body, two point and shoot bodies, two lenses, an underwater housing for my Olympus TG-4, my MacBook Pro and multiple other accessories.

The Underwater Photographer, by Martin Edge – If you want to learn underwater photography or want to perfect your underwater photography, this is without a doubt the book for you.


For Scuba Divers

Henderson Lycra Dive Skin – Whether you wear it alone for snorkeling or under a warmer wetsuit for diving, this dive skin is comfortable and well-made.

Reef Fish Identification Book – These fish identification books by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach have been a crucial part of our library for as long as I can remember.  They are a must-have for every scuba diver.  They are available for the Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Caribbean and Atlantic.

Scubapro Spectra Mini Mask – My mask of choice.  The low-profile design and smaller size is a great choice for female or smaller divers.

Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) Membership – We faithfully renew our DAN memberships each year.  The benefits are numerous and include dive accident insurance, a subscription to Alert Diver magazine and dive safety education.  Membership is $35 for an individual and $55 for a family.


For Bonaire Lovers – Our favorite local Bonairean products & services

Cadushy Rom Rincon – This spiced and artisan-crafted rum is made for sipping.  Get it while you are in Bonaire. It’s not available anywhere else.

Phish Phaktory Bags – These tote bags are made from recycled sails and materials found in underwater cleanup dives on Bonaire.  The bags are cute, sturdy, well-crafted and will last forever.  The owners/artists are super cool and truly care about our environment.

Carrying my Phish Phaktory tote at Bonaire's Carnival

Carrying my Phish Phaktory tote at Bonaire’s Carnival

Flaming Flamingo hot sauces, salt and jams – We love these made-in-Bonaire products.  Our fave is the mango hot sauce (Steve practically drinks it).

A tank card from Dive Friends Bonaire – Give the gift of air!  Dive Friends Bonaire offers a handy tank card for local divers.

Elements Jewelry – Elements dichroic glass pieces made great colorful gifts and souvenirs.

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire hats and shirts – Help Bonaire’s sea turtles and wear cool gear at the same time.

Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire Diver Certification Course – We are both PADI certified Coral Restoration Divers.  It’s both fun and important work.  Courses are available at Buddy Dive, Harbour Village and Wannadive.

Cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery

Meredith cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery at Klein Bonaire

Italy in the World, Bonaire – Give a beautiful bottle of Italian wine or a great Prosecco from this boutique and restaurant in Bonaire.  We love the Santero 9-5-8 prosecco for a sunset toast.

An extensive wine selection at Italy in The World, Bonaire

An extensive wine selection at Italy in The World, Bonaire

Latitude 12° Designs Bonaire Necklace – OK, this is my jewelry design company.  I design and create custom jewelry in sterling silver (or the metal of your choice).  My Bonaire Necklace is a great choice for showing your Bonaire love.  But the choice is yours – all pieces are custom made, and the sky is the limit.

The Bonaire necklace in sterling silver

The Bonaire necklace in sterling silver

Custom mermaid necklace in sterling silver

Custom mermaid necklace in sterling silver

Custom, hand made necklace for the ocean lover, by Latitude 12° Designs

Custom, hand made necklace for the ocean lover, by Latitude 12° Designs

custom bracelet set by Latitude 12° Designs

custom bracelet set by Latitude 12° Designs

All of the products mentioned above are products we use and love.  We have purchased each of these products (some over and over), and they were not gifted to us or given to us for promotional purposes.

Apr 202016

Lately I’ve been interested in wave photography.  I’m still a beginner when it comes to this photography medium, but I’m hoping to hone my skills to produce some interesting images.

A wave crests over Bachelor's Beach, Bonaire

A wave crests over Bachelor’s Beach, Bonaire

Speaking of honing my skills, I thought it would be helpful for me to delve into the world of waves for a bit.  What exactly are waves?  How are they generated?  Why do they always knock us down at the worst times?  These are basic concepts that I knew a bit about, but a refresher was definitely in order.

Another view from Bachelor's Beach

Another view from Bachelor’s Beach

The majority of the waves we see in the ocean are wind-generated, and they are caused by the wind blowing across the ocean’s surface.  There are three major factors that determine a wave’s size: 1) how long the wind blows, 2) how strong the wind blows, and 3) how far the wind blows (called fetch). The highest part of a wave is the crest, lowest part is the trough.  The wave height is the distance from the trough to the crest.

A wave spills onto Te Amo Beach, Bonaire

A wave spills onto Te Amo Beach, Bonaire

A particularly cool fact about waves is that water does not travel through the ocean via waves. Energy is what does the traveling.

A shimmery wave at Bachelor's

A sunlit wave at Bachelor’s

On the verge of a crest at Te Amo Beach

On the verge of a spill at Te Amo Beach

Here are some other facts about waves.

-The tallest wave ever measured was 1719 feet (523m)  at Lituya Bay, Alaska.

-The tallest wave recorded in the open ocean was 95 feet (29m) during a storm near Scotland.

-Other causes of waves aside from wind are – gravitational pull (tides), earthquakes, volcano eruptions and landslides.

-A tsunami wave can travel 500 mph (804kph) in deep water.

If you know a thing or two about photographing waves, care to share any tips?

Jan 252016

Many photographers don’t have the time, the inclination or the technical knowledge to process, edit and optimize the images that they have taken.  Shooting your images is the fun part, but for many, post-processing is simply a chore.

Eagle Ray Before and AfterWe are happy to share that Meredith is now offering professional photo editing & retouching services for underwater photographers.  As an experienced underwater photo editor/photographer, and a scuba diver of 20+ years, Meredith specializes in enhancing the beauty of your underwater subjects.

You can find more information about our photo editing services here. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions, or for a custom quote, at

Jan 182016

One of the most common questions I hear from beginner underwater photographers is, “Do I really need to use a strobe?”.  This is a very valid and important question.  The addition of a strobe, or two strobes, adds a significant amount of bulk and weight to your camera setup.  There’s also the fact that strobes are expensive. Taking these factors into account, it’s easy to see why this question should be carefully considered.

Like with many other all-important questions, the answer to this one is, “it depends”.  It depends on several factors.  Let’s go through a few of them.

Do you snorkel only?  Or will you be scuba diving?

This is probably the most important factor to consider.  In this discussion, it’s helpful to understand a bit about the color spectrum and how it is affected by water and depth.  Water is a very effective absorber of light, and certain colors disappear quickly with each foot of depth or horizontal distance.  Red is almost completely absorbed at 15 feet (5 meters).  Orange and yellow are the next to disappear.

If you are snorkeling at shallow depths, you may be able to get good color in your photos using only natural light (sunlight).  The time of day, your shooting angle and the weather conditions will be an important factor.  Direct sun (or midday sun) coming from overhead often casts harsh shadows on your subject, so mid morning or afternoon sun is often best.

Whitetip Reef Shark, no flash, notice the shadows on the subject due to shooting in mid-day sun

Whitetip Reef Shark, snorkeling photo, no flash.  Notice the shadows on the subject due to shooting in mid-day sun.

Southern Stingray in St. John, no flash, shot in later afternoon. Notice the more diffused light.

Southern Stingray in St. John, snorkeling photo, no flash, shot in late afternoon. Notice the more diffused light.

What quality do you want in your photos?  Think about the quality you want in your photographs.  If you simply want a few snapshots to remember your adventures, and you are not looking for high quality, color-saturated images, you don’t necessarily need a strobe.  Keep in mind that if you are diving below 10 feet (3 m), your photos will have a strong blue/green cast, and they will lack a variety of color tones.  For some divers, this is perfectly acceptable.  If, however, you want images that are suitable for framing or printing, you will want to use at least one strobe to restore the colors that are lost at depth.  And please, shoot in RAW format if your camera allows (more on this here).

We recently photographed this longlure frogfish at 25 feet (8 m) with and without flash.

Without Flash

Without Flash

Green Frogfish Bari Reef S 2

With flash (dual strobes), notice the color difference

What do you intend to photograph?  Do you plan to photograph fish, humans, reefscapes, marine mammals, wrecks or something else entirely?  This will be an important question to answer.

Let’s say you plan to shoot whale sharks while snorkeling.  First, lucky you.  Second, ambient light is probably best.  Remember that your strobe will throw light about 5 feet (1.5 m) in distance.  A whale shark is much, much larger than that.  So it’s virtually impossible to evenly light an entire whale shark with one or two strobes.

Whale Shark in the Maldives, no flash

Whale Shark in the Maldives, no flash

If you intend to photograph humpback whales, dolphins or marine mammals, sharks or large marine creatures in blue water, you should not use a strobe.  Your strobe will not illuminate the entire subject, and swimming with it will limit your maneuverability while snorkeling.  Try to position the sun to your back to help eliminate those pesky shadows (like you see in my whale shark photo above).

When your subjects are tropical fish, coral or reefscapes, you will need at least one strobe to bring out the full spectrum and saturation of colors that give the reef its beauty.  Photographing a vibrant coral reef without a strobe isn’t likely to do it justice.

There are always exceptions to these general ideas about flash -vs- ambient light in underwater photography. We know one incredible reef/fish photographer who uses only the internal flash in the camera, and her results are unbelievable.  We also know photographers who use LED lights for still photography underwater.  Experienced photographers often develop their own unique techniques that fall outside of the norm. What are your thoughts on this?  Do you use one strobe or two?  Or just the sunlight?

More Reeftaveler posts about underwater photography techniques-

How to Take Better Fish Portraits

How to Take Your Snorkeling Photography to the Next Level

How to Take Better Fish Portraits

Underwater Photography Etiquette

Dec 302015

We would like to wish our readers a very happy 2016, and we would also like to ask you for a favor.  As we formulate ideas for new blog posts and topics, we would like to know more about what topics you want to see us cover in 2016.  If your answer/s isn’t covered in the poll, please leave a comment on the blog.

Thanks for voting!

Note, if you have received this post via email, please visit the blog to vote.

Which topic/s would you like to see us cover more of in 2016?

  • Marine Conservation (25%, 6 Votes)
  • Underwater Photography Technique, Tips, Tricks & Gear Reviews (25%, 6 Votes)
  • Bird & Wildlife Photography (25%, 6 Votes)
  • Diving (17%, 4 Votes)
  • What to Do in Bonaire (8%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

Loading ... Loading ...